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WhatsApp delays new privacy policy as users flee to rival apps

January 16, 2021
WhatsApp is delaying updating its privacy policy following mass confusion over what data it shares with its parent company, Facebook. — Courtesy photo
WhatsApp is delaying updating its privacy policy following mass confusion over what data it shares with its parent company, Facebook. — Courtesy photo

SAN FRANCISCO — WhatsApp is delaying updating its privacy policy following mass confusion over what data it shares with its parent company, Facebook.

Last month, WhatsApp began notifying users of its updated terms of service and privacy policy, which people had to agree to in order to keep using the app after Feb. 8.

One particular section of the policy stoked concern among users: what user data is collected and shared with Facebook, which has a lackluster track record around privacy and protecting people's data. The confusion surrounding the update has contributed to a mass of users moving to rival apps such as Signal.

Now WhatsApp's update won't roll out until May 15.

"We've heard from so many people how much confusion there is around our recent update. There's been a lot of misinformation causing concern and we want to help everyone understand our principles and the facts," WhatsApp said in a blog post on Friday announcing the delay.

WhatsApp's privacy policy says the user information it collects may be shared with other Facebook companies "to help operate, provide, improve, understand, customize, support, and market our Services and their offerings."

In the Friday blog post, WhatsApp emphasized that its platform features end-to-end encryption, meaning neither it nor Facebook can see users' private messages. It also doesn't keep logs of who users are calling or messaging. WhatsApp said it can't see a person's shared location and that it doesn't share a user's contacts with Facebook.

WhatsApp's privacy policy was last updated globally in 2016. At the time, it briefly offered users the ability to opt-out of sharing data with Facebook. In this latest update, the reference to that no longer available opt-out option has been removed. That means no additional WhatsApp user data will be shared with Facebook than has been in recent years. Those who did elect the opt-out option in 2016 will not be impacted.

The larger update to the policy impacts people who chat with businesses on WhatsApp. Businesses that use the app to connect with customers can choose to store logs of their conversations on Facebook hosting services. But WhatsApp said it would clearly label the chat so it's up to the user whether or not they want to message that business.

"The update does not change WhatsApp's data-sharing practices with Facebook and does not impact how people communicate privately with friends or family wherever they are in the world," a WhatsApp spokesperson said in a statement earlier this week, adding that the company remains "deeply committed to protecting people's privacy."

WhatsApp has been making other attempts to explain the policy, including by publishing an FAQ on its privacy practices. — Courtesy CNN


January 16, 2021
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